Opening Bell: 05.01.07

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Report Assails Wal-Mart Over Unions [NYT]
Not at all breaking news: Wal-Mart doesn’t treat it workers that well. A study by Human Rights Watch that was published yesterday asserted that the ‘Mart has vigorously attempted to keep its employees out of labor unions, violating federal law and—wait for it—workers’ rights. And while the rest of its business may be in the toilet, Wal-Mart has been largely successful in this effort: out of 1.3 million workers in almost 4,000 stores in the United States not one of them belongs to a union. While HRW conceded that there are a lot of companies in America that try and stop personnel from organizing, this particular “retail giant stands out for the sheer magnitude and aggressiveness of its anti-union apparatus.” Replied Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar (remarkably, with a straight face), “It is because of our efforts to foster such an environment that our associates have repeatedly rejected unionization attempts.” Rumor has it that now only takes 17 years to earn your free Polo Appreciation gift.
TXU chief to net $279m in TPG buyout [Times Online]
Immediately following the TPG buy-out, John Wilder’s TXU options will vest, awarding him almost $280 million. Wilder was compensated $17.12 million in 2006, so this would be, as they say, considerably more. The payment is part of a “change of control clause” in Wilder’s contract with the company that he joined in 2004. Apropos, the deal is currently being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider trading, which probably won’t amount to anything but would add some much appreciated drama to the staid old leveraged buy-out.
ABN faces new suit as takeover battle heats up (Reuters)
An ABN AMRO investor has thrown a wrench in the Barclays takeover/sale of LaSalle plan, by filing a class action suit against the bank, claiming the directors “failed in their duties.” Halpert Enterprises asserted in a filing in New York that “The proposed sale is wrongful, unfair and harmful to ABN’s public stockholders, and represents and effort by defendants to aggrandize their own financial position and interests at the expense of and to the detriment of ABN's public stockholders.” Halpert would like ABN to go back on its word re: selling LaSalle and ponder alternatives to being taken over by Barclays, arguing that, as it as structured now, the acquisition in question is a deal preferential to the management exclusively, and “does not represent the maximized value that ABN shareholders are entitled to." Bank of America has indicated that will not take this sitting down, and will “take legal action” if the deal falls through. Meouch, indeed.

Halliburton Says It Has No Plans To Go Back To Iran
(NYS)
Halliburton vice president and corporate secretary Sherry Williams testified before the Senate yesterday and said that it won’t be returning to Iran, now that has completed its contracts there, contradicting chief executive David Lesar’s comment that the company would go back if conditions changed (i.e. people stopped criticizing it for “exploiting a loophole in federal economic sanctions against Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism”). The two did, thankfully, have their stories straight concerning the real need for “another one of those Katrinas.” They also promised to send lawmakers “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful” postcards as soon as they returned to Dubai, which is quite lovely this time of year.


Wolfowitz hints he may be prepared to resign (The Guardian)
World Bank president Paul Wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing-owitz may resign, but only if charges against him over using the organization’s resources to get him laid are dropped. Wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing-owitz claimed at a “special” board meeting last night that the exceedingly generous pay package he’d awarded his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, was totally legit, and that anything said against him is “unjust and hypocritical.” He noted that “The goal of this smear campaign, I believe, is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that I am an ineffective leader and must step down for that reason alone. I will not resign in the face of a plainly bogus charge of conflict of interest.” Once he is cleared of these absurd accusations, however, he will (possibly) resign, because he paid good money for that condo in Florida, and pretending to get mad about pretty much completely dead-on allegations has really taken a toll on his back.
Ex-UN deputy to help run Soros fund (FT)
George Soros has appointed Sir Mark Malloch Brown, the most recent deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, as vice-chairman of his Quantum hedge funds. In a letter to the shareholders, Soros wrote that Brown will “help create opportunities for [Soros Fund Management] and the fund around the world, with his extensive international contacts…[Brown will also] explore the development of innovative methods to use the international capital markets to address the needs of developing countries, while creating unique investment opportunities for the fund.” Sir Mark was also a vice-president of the World Bank for five years, and was seen as a possible candidate to replace Wolfowitz (if he, you know, resigns for not doing anything wrong).

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